By the Rev. Dr. Lakeya Stewart, M.Div., D.Min.
“But they hurt me….” A former pastor of mine often told me that “hurt people will hurt people.” Although the phrase is catchy, it is packed with great meaning. Let us for a few moments look at this phrase.
In a society that lifts up individualism over community, it is not surprising to learn that Christians are quick to revert back to the Old Testament teachings of “An Eye for an “Eye.” We oftentimes devise schemes and plot ways to “get back” at the people that have supposedly hurt us. I remember asking someone once why they were mad at another person and I remember being amazed at their response. They told me that they could not remember why they did not like the person because it happened so long ago! I sat in shock as I listened to the words of the woman. She explained that it had been almost like a family war. The two families for years had been at odds with each other. It was honestly a learned attitude passed down by grandparents. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, this all happened in a church. The “Eye for an Eye” teaching was being promoted either consciously or unconsciously through one or both of the families. Do you know any families like this? Is your family in this type of situation? What about forgiveness?
When we as humans get hurt or have been mistreated, we often put up walls and barriers that prevent us from getting close to anyone else. This is definitely true toward the person that hurt us. This leaves no room for reconciliation. According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the word reconciliation “properly denotes ‘to change, exchange’; hence, of persons, ‘to change from enmity to friendship, to reconcile’.” (page 513) Putting up walls whether literal or metaphorical is not an action that promotes reconciliation.
Many of us sadly begin to play “the victim”…but we are NOT the victim! Jesus Christ died so that we could be victorious! As the person who has been hurt in some way, we hold the power. The power that we hold is the power to forgive and to ultimately be reconciled.
Choosing not to forgive someone can be a selfish failure to act on our part. Matthew 18: 22 will provide Christians with instructions by Jesus to forgive our brothers or sisters up to 77 times. Now, we are not expected to legalistically count 77 offenses, but the number represents an infinite amount of times that we are to forgive others. Although provided with instructions for forgiveness, some of us enjoy feeling like “the victim”. We almost wear our victim experience, metaphorically speaking, on a badge that we parade around with on. We become known as “the victim” and we sometimes seek the sympathy of others. We in a sense become addicted to the attention we get.
Have you ever considered that you sometimes or maybe even often times hurt Jesus? Do we seek forgiveness of God? When we choose not to forgive others, we are not following Christ’s example. Jesus even asks God to forgive the thieves on the cross. If on the cross Jesus can forgive others, we can surely forgive those who hurt us.
Although we should forgive others, it is not always easy to do so. When I volunteered at a jail, I often heard the ladies speak of how their past unresolved hurt often times was a factor in how they acted in their present. They would talk about how they would react to present day struggles and situations with anger they felt from their past. When our hurts and issues go unresolved, they can control us.
The Good News in all of this is that there is hope. It is not too late to lay down your heavy burdens and to begin to forgive today. Reconciliation leads to peace and restoration of relationships. Choosing not to forgive can lead to high blood pressure and many other issues. As you go about your week, remember that you hold the power to forgive. God bless.
For questions or further correspondence concerning future topics or speaking engagements, please email at RevStewartSpeaks@outlook.com.
The Rev. Dr. Lakeya Stewart, M.Div., D.Min., ABD attended Berea College and the Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and earned a double major B.A. degree in Sociology and in African & African American Studies as well as the Master of Divinity Degree. Rev. Stewart is currently writing a dissertation on Toxic Leadership and Spiritual Abuse through Regent University.